US 7808376 B2
Potential disadvantages of the enhanced emergency hazard warning lights set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 7,352,278 are overcome by adding a lamp that beams its light rearward toward approaching traffic, is located approximately midway between and above the horizontal alignment of the rear turn signal lamps, thereby forming a triangular flashing emergency hazard warning signal that cannot be discontinued or otherwise disturbed when the vehicle's brakes and brake lights are simultaneously operated.
1. In a motor vehicle having an emergency 4-way flasher circuit with 4-way emergency lamps, three rear stop lights, one of which is a CHMSL, and a brake light switch, an enhanced hazard warning light system which comprises:
(a) at least one additional lamp located in a position approximately midway between, and above the horizontal alignment of, the vehicle's two rear emergency lamps, said lamp being oriented to beam its illumination toward traffic approaching from the rear,
(b) means for transmitting pulsed electrical current from the 4-way flasher circuit to the emergency lamps and the additional lamp so that all such lamps flash simultaneously on and off when the 4-way flasher circuit is turned on, and
(c) means for independently transmitting steady electrical current from the brake light switch to the three rear stop lights including the CHMSL,
whereby the two rear emergency lamps and the additional lamp flash continuously in a triangular hazard signal pattern without interruption from simultaneous engagement or disengagement of the three rear stop lights while the 4-way flasher circuit is activated, the flashing cycles of the 4-way emergency and additional lamps not including white light during the off periods of such cycles.
2. The system as in
3. The system as in
4. The system as in
5. The system as in
6. The system as in
7. The system as in
8. The system as in
9. In a motor vehicle having an emergency 4-way flasher with 4-way emergency lamps, three rear stop lamps one of which is a CHMSL, and a brake light switch, a method of creating an enhanced hazard warning light system which comprises:
(a) locating at least one additional lamp in a position approximately midway between, and above the horizontal alignment of, the vehicle's two rear emergency lamps,
(b) orienting said additional lamp to beam its illumination toward traffic approaching from the rear,
(c) transmitting pulsed electrical current from the 4-way flasher circuit to the emergency lamps and the additional lamp so that all such lamps flash simultaneously when the 4-way flasher circuit is turned on, and
(d) independently transmitting steady electrical current from the brake light switch to the three rear stop lights including the CHMSL, thereby causing the two rear emergency lamps and the additional lamp to flash continuously in a triangular hazard signal pattern without interruption from the engagement or disengagement of the three rear stop lights while the 4-way circuit is activated, the flashing cycles of the 4-way emergency and additional lamps not including white light during the off periods of such cycles.
10. The method as in
11. The method as in
12. The method as in
13. The method as in
14. The method as in
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to vehicle hazard warning lights and, more particularly, to the enhancement of such lights to become continuous and thus give more effective warnings that a disabled or stalled vehicle is a hazard to other vehicles approaching from the rear.
2. Description of the Prior Art
The present applicant's assignee Tritel, LLC received U.S. Pat. No. 7,352,278 B2 (“'278 patent”) on Apr. 1, 2008, the entirety of which is incorporated by reference herein. This patent, entitled Vehicle Hazard Warning Lights, describes an enhancement of hazard lights by transmitting pulsed electrical current from a vehicle's 4-way emergency flasher not only to the 4-way emergency lamps, normally the four front and back turn signals, but also to a vehicle's Center High Mounted Stop Light (“CHMSL”).
As a result, a flashing triangle is displayed when the 4-way flasher circuit is turned on, instead of the conventional hazard lights which normally are the horizontally aligned left and right turn signal lamps in the vehicle's rear. Thus, the flashing triangle gives a more effective warning signal due to the much larger geometry created by the triangle, as explained in the '278 Patent.
However, there is an inherent problem in the prior hazard light system because its triangular shape discontinues when the vehicle's service brakes are engaged. This happens because an automatic flow of a continuous electrical current from the brake light circuit enters the CHMSL, which will override and suppress the pulsed current simultaneously being transmitted to the CHMSL from the 4-way flasher circuit.
This feature was a necessity since the regulations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) have long mandated that the CHMSL must be illuminated when the service brakes are engaged. Compliance with this requirement in the '278 Patent system would cause the flashing triangular hazard signal to fluctuate randomly between triangular and conventional double horizontal emergency lamps when the vehicle's service brakes are engaged and disengaged, as needed by an approaching driver to safely slow or stop a vehicle in an emergency situation. These fluctuations could cause uncertainty or confusion to drivers approaching the hazard flashing vehicles by wondering why or how such alterations are happening and what they signify.
These problems should not be disregarded in view of the awful carnage that occurs every year on USA roads and highways from rear end collisions. NHTSA statistics indicate that annually there are 1.5 million rear end crashes that cause 2,000 deaths, 950,000 injuries and $18.3 of economic losses (Google: “ITS6 IVHS Countermeasures”). These staggering figures are powerful reasons why every potential or possible disadvantage in the '278 Patent hazard light system should be addressed and overcome to achieve certainty that the maximum efficacy of the system is available. It is believed that this will significantly reduce the huge losses of life, health, property and economics that rear end collisions yearly generate.
The present invention provides a simple, effective and inexpensive solution to the above disadvantage of the '278 patent hazard light system. In particular, addition of another lamp to the system can and does eliminate all of the difficulties that have been explained above in view of having to comply with NHTSA's requirements concerning the CHMSL that are in every USA passenger vehicle and light truck.
Further features and details of the invention will be understood by reference to the drawings and the following specific description.
The 4-way hazard warning lights have been turned on by the driver, thus causing added lamp 14 and turn signal lamps 16 to flash the triangle traced by the phantom lines. Regardless of whether or not the service brakes are engaged, this flashing hazard warning signal will persist and continue to flash because both these hazard lights and the three brake lamps 12 and 18 are powered by separate independent circuits.
This is illustrated in
Lead 22 supplies power to 4-way flasher switch 28. Switch 28 is a push button on or near the dashboard of passenger and light truck vehicles. It is marked with a double outlined triangle to help identify it. When switch 28 is pushed in, the 4-way emergency hazard warning circuit is activated by lead 30, and rear turn signal lamps 16 and front turn signal lamps 16 a begin to receive electrical on/off pulses from the circuit. Additional lamp 14 is also activated with such pulses. Therefore, flashing is sustained by all three lamps in the triangular configuration depicted by the phantom chain lines in
One can visualize from this arrangement that the flashing rear hazard warning lamps 14 and 16 will always maintain their triangular configuration even when the rear stop lamps 18 and CHMSL 12 turn on from engagement of the brakes. The steady triangle created by the stop lamps will complement the triangular rear flashing lamps 14 and 16 of the 4-way emergency flasher group. As a result, there will be symmetry of the two configurations that drivers will quickly recognize as a hazard signal that requires utmost caution and careful slowing or stopping of their approaching vehicles.
Addition of lamp 14 also achieves simplification of installation. After the lamp is affixed to the vehicle's rear window location, the wiring from the lamp can be readily passed through the finished interior liner material, either at the roof or the sides, into the trunk compartment. There the wiring can be easily spliced with one or both of the other two rear emergency lamps, whereby when these two lamps are flashed to begin a hazard warning, so also will the added lamp 14 be flashed simultaneously and synchronously with the four other emergency lamps.
This system also permits flexibility in the colors of the 4-way emergency lamps, which can be red, yellow, amber or orange, whereas the CHMSL 12 is required by NHTSA always to emit red light.
The invention has been described in terms of its functional principles and an illustrative embodiment. Many variants of that embodiment will be obvious to those skilled in the art. Therefore, it should be understood that the ensuing claims are intended to cover all changes and modifications of the illustrative embodiment which fall within the literal scope of the claims, and all equivalents thereof.